Algebra For Technical School – How Much Do You Need To Know?

Before I became a math teacher I managed chemical production plant operations. Moreover before I worked in chemical plants I was a Surface Warfare Officer in the US Navy managing naval power plants and other complex engineering/technical systems.  I say this only to gain your trust that I have a pretty good sense of the math involved in many technical vocations.

So now on to our question- Do You Need to Know Algebra for Technical School?  Well the answer depends what program you’re studying.  If you’re studying to be an Electronic Technician you will need to know a good amount of algebra and maybe even more advance math.  However for many other technical training programs like HVAC, Automotive Technician and Medical Assistant you will only need a working knowledge of some basic algebra skills.

So, the good news for you out there that suffer from “math phobia” is that you don’t need to know everything in algebra for most programs.  Don’t worry you won’t have to do a quadratic equation or solve a system of equations to repair an air conditioner.  However depending on what your job skills involve you may very well have to perform some level of algebra.  For example if you’re an electrician you might have to solve a basic equation like Ohm’s Law or if you’re in HVAC you may need think about the algebraic relationship between pressure, temperature and volume.

Technical jobs are based on science.  As you know science has a lot of theory and formulas and the language of these formulas is math. As a student you want to have an understanding of the theories that involve your technical job- it will make you smarter and better. A true vocational master is one that has a total command of the practical knowledge and theoretical knowledge.  So as a technical school student you should embrace the “book” stuff as very important to your overall development as a professional.

Lastly let’s talk about what to do if you have no clue about algebra.  If you have the time you want to try to review basic algebra by studying “pre-algebra”.  I like to recommend online self-paced video instruction programs for a comprehensive review but a good textbook may be enough depending on your current skill level.  Here are the basic core topics that I suggest technical students focus on first:

  • Algebra basic terms and concepts (order of operations, working with variables, etc.)
  • Fractions
  • Positive and Negative numbers (these are called Real Numbers in algebra)
  • Equations
  • Percent